Hamantaschen Two Ways

Last week, for the first time ever, I taught a class.  Patience is not a virtue that I really possess, and thus I always assumed that without patience, I could never teach.  But as I wave goodbye to my 30’s, I am attempting new challenges in the hope that my brain does not turn to rot.

In this realm of trying new things, I (nervously) accepted the offer to teach a class on Hamantaschen - a delicate triangular biscuit eaten for the Jewish festival of Purim, which falls this week.

Purim is a day of celebration. The story is told that Haman, the King’s adviser, plotted to exterminate the Ancient Persian Jews, but his plot was foiled by Queen Esther.  As with most holidays, Jews celebrate with food.  On Purim, we exchange edible gifts and eat Hamantaschen representing the three cornered hat worn by Haman.

So, last Thursday evening, with dough and fillings prepped and ready to roll, sixteen of us congregated in my kitchen and made hundreds of these tasty triangular treats.

Traditionally, Hamantaschen are filled with either prune (lekvar), or poppyseed (mohn).  Maida Heater, in her Book of Great Cookies, has a wonderful recipe with orange flavoured dough and a prune and apricot filling which is sweet but not clawing.  And these have been a staple in our home for as long as I can remember.

However, this was my first foray into teaching and I thought I should offer a twist to those attending (who I assumed already had their traditional recipes up their sleeves).  Despite my extensive cookbook collection, I always turn to Marcy Goldman for a traditional Jewish delicacy, primarily as she has published the BEST (and probably most quoted) honey cake around.  And she did not disappoint with her blueberry filling, which is totally reminiscent of blueberry pie, and pairs brilliantly with Maida’s orange dough.

Hamantaschen
Hamantaschen

As I like to live in the world of possibilities, I also offered the children’s favourite filling of peanut butter and chocolate.  Peanut Butter & Co has simplified life even further by having the best combination available, which we generously dolloped onto into pastry rounds to take home “for the kids”.  Alas (for some), they were all demolished, straight out of the oven, before they could be packaged up as goodie bags.

IMG_2509.jpg

I am truly grateful to my wonderful friend, Emma (lifeofyablon.com), who declined the offer to get her hands dirty with us in order to photograph the evening.  (She is aware that I am totally incapable of multitasking while in the kitchen).  Her photos beautifully capture the energy of the evening.

 Photo thanks to  Emma Parlons

Photo thanks to Emma Parlons

 Photo thanks to  Emma Parlons

Photo thanks to Emma Parlons

 Photo thanks to  Emma Parlons

Photo thanks to Emma Parlons

 Photo thanks to  Emma Parlons

Photo thanks to Emma Parlons

So, please get in the kitchen, and make these.  Preferably before Thursday, or you may have to wait until next year!

Hamantaschen with Two Ways

Recipe adapted from Maida Heater’s Book of Greatest Cookies

Please do not panic at the length of this recipe.  It is longer than usual as I have illustrated three methods for making the pastry.

Note: The pastry needs to be made a day ahead allowing it to rest in the fridge overnight. It will keep in the fridge for 2 days or for a month in the freezer. The filling can be made ahead of time and kept out and covered in a container for a day or two or for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Pastry

230g (2 cups) plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

150g (3/4 cup) caster sugar

125g (4 oz) cold unsalted butter

1 egg 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 orange 20 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) orange juice

Filling

350g (12 oz) dried pitted prunes (unsweetened)

175g (6 oz) dried apricots 240ml (1 cup) water

1 tbsp lemon juice

120ml (1/2 cup) mild honey

1 cinnamon stick

75g (3/4 cup) walnuts in medium sized pieces (optional)

Make Pastry:

Pastry can be made either in a food processor, an electric mixer, or by hand

Food Processor Method:

Cut butter into small cubes and put in the fridge to keep it cold until you are ready.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade and pulse a few times to combine.

Add cubed butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. 

Mix together egg, vanilla, orange zest and juice and pour through tube Process until a ball of dough  is formed - about 25-30 seconds. 

Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half Wrap each half of pastry in cling film and flatten slightly into a disc. 

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Electric Mixer Method:

Cut butter into small cubes and put in the fridge to keep it cold until you are ready.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. 

Add cubed butter and mix on a low speed with a paddle attachment until mixture resembles sand.

Combine  egg, vanilla, orange zest and juice and add to the bowl.

Mix until a soft dough is formed.

Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half Wrap each half of pastry in cling film and flatten slightly into a disc Refrigerate until ready to use

By Hand:

Cut butter into small cubes and put in the fridge to keep it cold until you are ready.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 

Add butter and cut in with pastry blender until mixture resembles sand. 

Combine  egg, vanilla, orange zest and juice and add to the bowl. 

Stir until you have a smooth dough.

Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half.

Wrap each half of pastry in cling film and flatten slightly into a disc Refrigerate until ready to use

Make Filling:

Cut prunes and apricots into small pieces Place them in a saucepan with the water and the cinnamon stick. 

Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes on a low heat until very soft (if the water evaporates before the fruit is soft add another teaspoon or two of water and cook a few minutes longer). 

Add the lemon juice and honey Cook stirring constantly for 5 more minutes Don’t let it thicken too much as it will continue to do so when cooling Stir in the nuts (if using) and set aside

Assemble Hamantaschen

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take first round of pastry out of the fridge and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. 

Lightly flour pastry on both sides and place it between 2 pieces of parchment paper. 

You will need to work quickly as the dough will warm up in no time Roll out the pastry between the parchment layers, turning it over occasionally to ensure it is even It should be rolled quite thin - 3mm (1/8 inch) but not thinner as it will be too hard to handle.

With an 8 cm (3 inch) cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds Re-roll the scraps (you may need to chill the dough again first

Drop a heaped teaspoon of filling into the centre of each round.

Shape triangle by by bringing three edges together.  Make sure they are pinched tightly, leaving an opening in the centre If they become sticky before you shape them, slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge or freezer until they are firm enough to handle.

Place Hamataschen 5 cm (2 inches) apart on a baking sheets

Chill sheets in fridge for minimum of 30 minutes or freeze until firm.  You can make the hamataschen upto this stage and freeze them on the cookie sheets for up to 2 weeks and then cook them straight from frozen.

While they are chilling, preheat oven to 190C (375F).

Bake 12-15 minutes until they just begin to colour on the sides (slightly darker around the edges). You may need to rotate baking sheets half way through cooking Transfer to a cooling rack (they are very delicious warm, so make more than you need as a few always disappear straight out of the oven).

Alternative - Blueberry Hamantaschen Filling

Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

Blueberries are not exactly seasonal at Purim, so I make this filling with frozen blueberries.  This filling is also a perfect solution to convert those who claim to not really like Hamantaschen into lovers of the trianglular treat.

250g (2 cups) frozen (or fresh) blueberries

133g (2/3 cup) caster sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice (approx 1 lemon 4 tsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tbsp recently boiled water

Combine blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed saucepan bring to simmer on low heat.

Stir in cornflour mixture and increase temperature. 

Cook berries for about 5-10 minutes (3-5 if using fresh berries), stirring occasionally, until they burst and mixture thickens to the consistency of pie filling.

Remove from heat and pour into a bowl Seal with clingfilm directly over mixture to ensure no skin forms and chill in the fridge until needed.

 Photo thanks to  Emma Parlons

Photo thanks to Emma Parlons

Enjoy!